Apple iPhone: What to expect at Thursday's big announcement

Hey, Apple, how about letting someone else get some publicity for a while? First Apple launches the iPad, now Apple plans to unveil details about the iPhone OS 4.0 on Thursday.

Speculation among Apple watchers is, of course, running wild. Top of the list of expected features: The iPhone will finally support multitasking third-party applications.

The user interface for controlling multitasking on the iPhone will look a lot like Expose on the desktop. Hitting the home button twice or some other key combination will display an array of icons for currently-running apps on the iPhone.

The iPhone will reportedly also get support for a unified mailbox in the Mail app. Multiple accounts now each require their own mailbox, but the Mail app in 4.0 will allow multiple accounts to share a single inbox, which is how things work on Mac Mail for the desktop and just about every other email program in the civilized world.

I'd also like to see Mail support flagging messages, which is an essential feature; it's the best way to mark a message as read but requiring immediate attention when you're back at your desk.

And iPhone 4.0 might also get support for adding contacts to the iPhone home screen, allowing you to create icons on the home screen to automatically dial "Mom" or "Home."

PCWorld has more speculation on what we might expect to see at the iPhone 4.0 introduction.

At Thursday's event, Apple will likely release an early edition of the software developers' kit for iPhone 3.0 OS, analyst Ezra Gottheil told my colleague Gregg Keizer.

When will the new iPhone arrive? Apple introduced the first-generation iPhone in late June 2007, the 3G in mid-July 2008, and the 3GS in mid-June last year.

Gottheil goes into a bit of detail on the multitasking issues:

Gottheil expects that the iPhone 4.0 will offer, if not true multitasking, then a broader form of multitasking than the iPhone currently supports. Currently, only Apple's own iPod app can run in the background on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the other handheld device that uses the iPhone operating system.

"I don't think they'll offer full multitasking," said Gottheil, referring to the taken-for-granted ability to run more than one program at a time. "But they'll get rid of all or most of the impediments that make you wish you had multitasking."

Sounds intriguing, although I'm not really sure what it means.

That might not be all Apple has up its sleeve. Apple is reportedly planning to refresh its notebook lines this month, including new MacBooks, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air, says, attributing the report to the Taiwanese newspaper Apple Daily. All three MacBooks will max out at 640 GB hard drives with 8 hours battery life.


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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